Florida Claims AP Psychology Course Is Not Banned | Miami New Times


In Wake of Outcry, Florida Claims AP Psychology Can Be Taught in Full

The wrangling over the AP course status signals confusion — or obfuscation — over the patchwork of new education rules under Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration.
Manny Diaz Jr.  joins Governor Ron DeSantis at Miami’s Freedom Tower on May 9, 2022, for the "Honoring Victims of Communism" event.
Manny Diaz Jr. joins Governor Ron DeSantis at Miami’s Freedom Tower on May 9, 2022, for the "Honoring Victims of Communism" event. Photo by Manny Diaz state senate Facebook page
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On the heels of the College Board's claim that Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration had barred key topics in an Advanced Placement Psychology class, the Florida Department of Education is saying the course can be "taught in its entirety in a manner that is age and developmentally appropriate."

Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz sent a letter to Florida school district superintendents, saying that the high school psychology class, which includes topics on sexual orientation and gender, would remain in the state's course catalogue and can be taught in full.

The move follows August 3 statements from the College Board — the nonprofit organization that approves AP coursework — which assert that the Florida Department of Education in effect had banned the class by restricting its lessons on sexual orientation and gender under the state's so-called "Don't Say Gay" regulations. The College Board maintained the course would be incomplete if it chopped material in order to comply with state rules.

"Any AP Psychology course taught in Florida will violate either Florida law or college requirements," the board wrote, saying it would withhold the "AP" designation unless the state allowed the full course to be taught.

The American Psychological Association (APA), the largest professional organization of psychologists in the U.S., said that removal of the sexual orientation and gender topics from the course would render it incomplete and inadequate.

"Requiring what is effectively censored educational material does an enormous disservice to students across Florida, who will receive an incomplete picture of the psychological research into human development," APA chief executive Arthur Evans Jr. said in a statement.

According to the College Board, more than 28,000 Florida students took the AP Psychology course last school year, making it one of the most popular AP courses in the state. AP classes offer high school students the opportunity to earn college credits and boost their weighted grade-point average.

In a statement provided to New Times, the Department of Education says that it never "banned" the course.

"We encourage the College Board to stop playing games with Florida students and continue to offer the course and allow teachers to operate accordingly," the statement reads. "The other advanced course providers (including the International Baccalaureate program) had no issue providing the college credit psychology course."

The wrangling over the course status appears to reflect confusion — or obfuscation — over the patchwork of new Florida laws and administrative rules restricting lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity topics in public schools.

In May, the College Board received a letter from the Department of Education's Office of Articulation, directing the board to "immediately conduct a thorough review" of its class materials to ensure they comply with the new regulations.

Among other measures passed in 2023, Florida enacted a law that expanded a "Don't Say Gay" statute so that classroom discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity would be banned until ninth grade. The new law noted that the topics could be covered by teachers in high school in an "age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate" manner — the language Commissioner Diaz cited in his August 4 message to superintendents.

Diaz's message did not, however, resolve potential conflicts that the AP Psychology course might have with a separate Department of Education administrative rule, which bars teaching sexual orientation and gender identity topics unless they are "expressly required by state academic standards" or are taught as "part of a reproductive health course or health lesson for which a student’s parent has the option to have his or her student not attend."

The Florida academic standards for psychology, as posted on the Department of Education website in June, do not contain specific references to gender identity or sexual orientation, raising the question of whether the AP Psychology class is compliant with the administrative rule. There are sections on "trait theory," "humanistic theories," and "biological and situational influences," though it's unclear if the psychology class's lessons on sexual orientation and gender would  fall under those sections.  

The board said this week that DeSantis' "anti-woke" regulations significantly restrict the course, and that it "cannot modify AP Psychology in response to rules that would censor college-level standards for credit, placement, and career readiness."

Evans said that the APA stands with the College Board's decision to not alter the course.

"Educators should not be required for purely political reasons to censor a curriculum and test that are grounded in the latest, most reliable research," he said. "And psychology professors cannot and should not accept for college credit a course that ignores a critical aspect of sexuality and an entire group of people from its curriculum."

AP Psychology asks students to "describe how sex and gender influence socialization and other aspects of development," according to the College Board.

This element of the curriculum has been part of AP Psychology since the course launched 30 years ago, the board says.

In a statement to New Times, Miami-Dade County Public Schools spokesperson Jaquelyn Calzadilla Diaz wrote that the district is "exploring all options to provide students who were enrolled in the Advanced Placement Psychology course the opportunity to earn college credit."

The Broward County school district did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 
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